Wildcats earn first win at Talladega

Published 10:54 pm Thursday, September 15, 2011

Shelby County senior Denzel Williams, right, holds a block for teammate Evan McNeal in the Wildcats' 24-19 win over Talladega in a Class 5A, Region 5 game Sept. 15. (Contributed/Wanda Adams)

By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor

Shelby County High School sophomore offensive linemen Tristan Chandler and Matt Youngblood didn’t get many reps in preseason camp with the first-team offense.

The Wildcats’ center and right guard, respectively, saw their first taste of varsity action in Shelby County’s 24-19 win over Talladega in a Class 5A, Region 5 game Sept. 15.

The Wildcats’ first victory of the season didn’t come easy. Shelby County had to hold off the Tigers in the final minute when a fourth-down pass attempt by Talladega fell harmlessly to the ground.

“We had to overcome a lot of adversity in losing two offensive linemen,” said Shelby County coach Ryan Herring. “I can’t say enough about our kids. They fought hard and got the win.”

The Wildcats’ power rushing attack didn’t miss a beat with the backup linemen in the game. Chandler started the game due to a knee injury to senior Harrison Adams in practice earlier this week. Youngblood was called into action when Joey Guthrie went down with a knee injury in the first half.

Shelby County (1-3 overall, 1-2 in Class 5A, Region 5) rushed for 232 yards on 50 attempts in the game behind a three-headed attack with sophomore Marterius McGregor and seniors Brent Wooley and Denzel Williams.

McGregor led the way as he rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in the win. McGregor led the Shelby County defense with 11 tackles and one forced fumble.

The Wildcats forced a turnover on the second play of the game when Austin Poe recovered the football just inside the Tigers’ 30-yard line following a hit by McGregor.

However, Shelby County couldn’t capitalize on the field position after Ty Proctor’s pass attempt on fourth down fell short of his intended target.

Talladega responded with a 12-play, 76-yard scoring drive, which was capped by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Zach Spratlin to Justin Kelley, with 4:22 remaining in the opening quarter. Williams fell on top of the ball on the Tigers’ extra-point attempt to keep Talladega from adding to an early 6-0 lead.

Shelby County responded with its own 12-play scoring drive, which covered 80 yards, to tie the score at 6-6 following a 1-yard touchdown plunge by McGregor. Evan McNeal reeled in a pass from Proctor on the two-point conversion to give the Wildcats an 8-6 lead with 10:46 left in the first half.

Shelby County forced a three-and-out before adding to its lead with a 12-play, 49-yard scoring drive. Brent Wooley found a hole up front for a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Wildcats’ a 14-6 lead with four minutes remaining in the opening half. Wooley ran it in for the two-point conversion to push the Wildcats’ lead to 16-6.

Proctor completed a 17-yard pass to McNeal on fourth down to keep the drive alive deep in Talladega territory.

Talladega closed the first half with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive to cut the Shelby County lead to 16-12 following a touchdown pass by Spratlin to Javian McCoy. Justin Webber recorded a sack on a halfback pass attempt for the two-piont conversion to give the Wildcats a four-point cushion heading into the locker room at halftime.

The Wildcats opened the second half with a 14-play, 71-yard scoring drive, which covered the first seven minutes of the third quarter. McGregor capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and Wooley ran in for the two-point conversion to give Shelby County a 24-12 lead with 4:59 left in the third quarter.

Proctor completed another pass to McNeal on fourth down deep in Talladega territory to keep the drive alive.

The Tigers responded with a drive deep inside Shelby County territory, but McNeal picked off a pass at the Wildcats’ 14-yard line to keep Talladega out of the end zone.

However, the Tigers cut the lead to 24-19 with 3:35 remaining in the game following a 4-yard touchdown run by McCoy and an extra point by Jackson Bailey. The touchdown capped an 11-play, 63-yard drive by Talladega.

Following a 20-yard halfback pass from Williams to McNeal to melt some time off the clock, Proctor fumbled a snap at the Tigers’ 34-yard line to give Talladega one last chance at a game-winning drive.

A facemask penalty by the Wildcats on a third down kept the Tigers’ final drive alive. However, Spratlin came up just shy of the first-down marker on a later third down and an incomplete pass on fourth down ended the scoring threat with nine seconds left in the game.